The news that Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow were found dead after authorities and loved ones searched for them for months left Tylee's best friend stunned, she said in an upcoming episode of "48 Hours." Like many others, Vaisia Itaaehau could not let herself think that Tylee or JJ had been harmed in any way, though their mother Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband Chad Daybell would not tell investigators where the children were or what happened to them.
“I just always had that hope that they were alive, and so when I heard the news, I was just, like, so dumbfounded because … I just completely believed they were alive,” Vaisia Itaaehau, one of Tylee’s best friends, told "48 Hours."
On Saturday, CBS News with "48 Hours" will examine how investigators discovered Lori Vallow's missing children and what is ahead in the case against Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell.
This true-life drama goes inside the investigation into the shocking national search for siblings 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, who were missing from their home for months before police found their bodies buried in their stepfather's backyard in Rexburg, Idaho.
Police say the children disappeared in September 2019, a short while after the family moved to Idaho from Arizona. Investigators believe the last time Tylee, the eldest, was seen was after a family trip on Sept. 8 to Yellowstone National Park. Investigators believe JJ then went missing on Sept. 22. For six months, their mother, Lori Daybell, and her new husband refused to cooperate with the police.
Then, police discovered last June the children's bodies buried in Daybell's backyard.
In this hour-long special, "48 Hours" dives into the life of the children's mother, Lori Vallow, and the long-winded investigation into the search for her children. CBS News Correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti interviews Vallow's best friend, Melanie Gibbs who, in a December 2019 phone call, confronted her about the whereabouts of her 7-year-old son, JJ.
On Nov. 26, 2019, the Rexburg Police Department conducted a welfare check for Lori Vallow's son, JJ, according to previous reports. Investigators confronted Lori, who informed them that her son was in Arizona with Gibbs.
Gibbs told "48 Hours" that she received a call from Chad Daybell instructing her not to answer when police tried to reach her. Shortly after, Lori called her. Gibbs testified that Lori asked her to lie and tell police that JJ was with her and that she had taken him to a movie.
After weeks had gone by, Gibbs felt bothered that JJ might be in danger and that her friends Lori and Chad had something to do with it.
"That taped phone conversation is when you can hear Chad and Lori go from, 'Oh, yeah, everything's great,' to that change where, 'OK, we've got a problem here,'" says Morgan Loew, an investigative reporter with CBS.
"Is JJ safe?" Melanie asks at one point in the call.
"He is safe and happy," Lori responded.
"We know that they knew that the kids were not alive at that point," Loew said. "We know that they knew that those kids were not OK. We know they were lying when they said the kids were fine."
When the news finally broke in December 2019 that the children were missing and a heartbreaking nationwide search began, Lori Vallow Daybell had already taken a flight to Hawaii with her new husband, Chad Daybell, according to reports. Investigators say only Lori and Chad know what happened to JJ and Tylee.
Both Lori and Chad are in jail and set to go on trial in 2021 for conspiracy to destroy, alter or conceal evidence for their roles in disposing of the children's bodies. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges and deny any wrongdoing.